Milan Gomillion went all-out.
The sophomore libero dove with an outstretched right hand to keep the ball off the floor for a kneeling Sydney Dowler, who set up junior outside hitter Sam Csire for a momentous putaway to tame a pesky Rhode Island effort, helping Maryland volleyball pull away for the set victory.
The thrilling rally wound up one of few stressful moments in what was otherwise a calm yet stellar day for the Terps, who swept Rhode Island and Navy to open the season 2-0.
“There was a big difference between the first match and the second,” said coach Adam Hughes. “I thought the team did a good job of just staying composed and then kind of took advantage and stayed running the course.”
Maryland fell behind early in the first set, 4-2, but eventually found its footing. The Terps displayed a balanced offensive bombardment to the tune of a .556 hitting percentage.
A collective effort from the trio of Rainelle Jones, Csire and Laila Ivey buoyed Maryland in the first set. The three accounted for 17 of the squad’s 18 kills en route to a 25-11 victory.
“I think [Ivey] was a little nervous going into her first match,” said Hughes. “I told her it was okay to have a little nerves, and you know, I think she handled her role pretty well tonight, so [I’m] proud.”
The touted freshman shook off any semblance of opening set jitters, teaming up with Csire for nine kills that helped Maryland build a 15-10 advantage. Jones then earned her second kill, a point that ignited a 10-1 run that won the Terps’ their first set of the season.
The match’s second set proved more competitive than the first, as the Rams found their rhythm offensively after logging a paltry .087 hitting percentage in the opening frame.
Senior outside hitter Claire Wagner tormented the Maryland block with an eight-kill barrage that helped the Rams keep pace with the Terps deep into the second set.
But just like in the first set, the Terps came alive to bury the Rams for good.
Gomillion’s heroic dig gave Maryland the momentum boost it needed, and a Rams timeout came in vain, as a Lexy Finnerty service ace and a trio of kills from Pitt transfer Anastasia Russ helped Maryland close out a set that featured eight ties and three lead changes, 25-17.
“A-Russ had a good start for us, too … we feel really confident about the room of middles, and I was happy we were actually able to get Ally [Williams] in there,” Hughes said. “She did a really good job serving … she got a block and she got a kill in that first match. So we’re hoping we can use that as an advantage this season.”
Williams’ first career ace was the highlight of the third set, as the Terps made quick work of the faltering Rams and closed out their season-opener.
Ellie Watson flashed her versatility in the third set, contributing two kills, a block assist and a service ace to help Maryland steamroll Rhode Island 25-13.
After a five-hour layover, the Terps returned to the home court to battle the Midshipmen.
A Rainelle Jones stuff kicked off a 4-0 Maryland run to propel it to an early 8-3 lead as Navy coach Paco Labrador used a timeout in hopes of sapping Maryland’s early surge.
Just as they did in their first set against Rhode Island, the Terps benefitted from a balanced scoresheet, with six different players logging kills.
“It’s huge,” Hughes said of the offensive distribution. “I mean, we’re trying to play a little bit faster than we’ve done in the past.”
Once again, they found themselves in a closely-contested first set but used a late 4-0 run to win, 25-14
Navy found holes in the Maryland block in the second frame, as a series of kills by Jamie and Jordan Lleweyyln helped the Midshipmen keep pace.
But the Terps pulled away once again.
Leading by four, Navy fought to dig out a blazing attack from Laila Ricks, but an overpass gave Ricks another chance. She capitalized with a cratering putaway that stretched the Maryland lead to 21-16 as Navy used another timeout.
Back-to-back kills from Csire pushed Navy to the brink at 24-20, and the visitor’s sixth error of the frame sealed any hopes of a comeback as Maryland took the second set, 25-20.
“You’re not going to change your game; no one’s going to change their game,” Csire said of the Terps’ ability to quell Navy’s momentum. “So in our huddle, we were just like, ‘keep playing, doing what we do.’ And eventually we came back and we were able to finish it out.”
Just one set away from its second sweep of the day, the Terps finished off a worn-down Midshipmen squad. They raced out to a 14-4 lead and weathered a brief rally to complete the dominant day with a 25-12 third-set triumph.